Handbooks of Research on International Political Economy series
Edited by Anthony Payne and Nicola Phillips
Chapter 3: Transnational neopluralism and the process of governance
The concept of governance has undergone a number of significant changes since the late twentieth century. Indeed, I would argue that the word itself is characterised by a particular ambiguity that has run through the political and social sciences generally, not just international relations (IR) and international political economy (IPE), since their early development. That is, the distinction between institutions on the one hand, and processes on the other. 'Governance' has generally been taken to mean something different from, although inextricably intertwined with, 'government', an ambiguity represented by the title of Arthur F. Bentley's seminal work on pluralism, The Process of Government, just over a century ago (Bentley 1908). The very concept of 'governance' as it was previously used in political theory connoted not institutionalised structures nor more formal political processes, but informal practices, indirect forms of social control, and loose and fungible structures of power such as the 'self-organising networks' analysed by policy-network theorists (Rhodes 1996), economic sociologists, marketing specialists and some political economists (Thompson et al. 1991; Castells 1996; Henderson et al. 2002). Therefore, while 'government' is about institutions, 'governance' is about the social and economic, as well as political, processes by which power and influence are put into practice, outcomes are shaped and decisions made and implemented, and broad social, political and economic trends managed and controlled by a range of actors.
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